Would you want your children to be in a school that’s all digital? Let me paint a few scenarios.
Should teachers stop using handouts and publish lessons to be read, watched or listed to on digital devices?
Should schools have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy?
There is no shortage of wonderful, free technologies that stimulate collaboration, and empathy. I have even used some of them in my classes! However, I also know that young people are perfectly capable of learning, creativity, discourse and group work without the help of a shiny object. We hear that ‘Digital Natives’ are wired for learning differently. But are they?
There are also the unintended consequences of too much screen time, warns Dr. Aric Sigman. He warns of “permanent damage to (children’s) still-developing brains”. Dr. Sigman is an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Read this piece published in April this year by Psychology Today. This Is What Screen Time Really Does to Kids’ Brains.
A new book about digital natives, Screenwise, calls for more mentoring not monitoring. But we tend to assume too much about digital natives. I like the point made by Jessica Laura (in a blog post at CommonSense.Org) that calls for ongoing, explicit training of digital literacy – and not just ‘screens.’ She says:
People say, “The child’s a digital native,” but that has nothing to do with whether or not they know how to use technology well; that just means they’ve grown up with it. Just because I grew up speaking English doesn’t know I mean everything about English; we still go to English class for 13 years of our lives.
Digital Citizenship and digital literacy is a fast-updating field. What people in their forties and fifties ‘know’ about digital is probably ancient wisdom. It may not happen in the next school year, but here’s a question for parents and teachers: What would you do if your school goes digital?
My wife runs a school that will probably never go digital. For good reason – it is a Montessori school, a place where, happily, you can’t replace such tools as sandpaper letters, sound boxes and pink towers. But before we know it, toddlers may be needing to know a thing or too about what it means to be a digital citizen – when they get home to their parents’ smart devices!
The key is to pay attention to “early fine-motor writing skills” even in pre-kindergarten. I’ll spare you the sciency details of this article if you are just scanning this blog. But suffice to cite this from the well documented studies that Dr Class cites:
“After the children were taught to print, patterns of brain activationin response to letters showed increased activation of that reading network.”
It may be satisfying to some that this is not an either-or discovery. There is a role for Manuscript writing, Cursive, and Keyboarding – the need for ‘hybrid writers.’
This is a topic that comes up a lot in my work as a teacher, and I will return to it shortly when I get back to work in my ‘hybrid’ computer lab.
Besides being a technology writer, I am also the husband of a Montessori teacher, and we are truly concerned about the effect of tablets and smart phones.
My wife has taught very young children for about 27 years, and we have begun to observe disturbing real-time effects in kids for whom hand-delds have become proxy toys and baby-sitters. These screens are being outsourced by parents to take on the other aspects of parenting – stimulating thought-processes, imagination, language development etc.
Perhaps she will not say it in so many words, so as co-director of her Montessori school, I think it is time I did.
You may hate what I have to say, but for all of you young parents who start your day by giving your kid a screen at breakfast “just to keep her quiet,” or let a child ‘play’ with a smart phone on the way to school, you are damaging or impairing his/her development. This is not just our opinion. This is based on ongoing observations, and there is plenty of new research on the subject.
Pediatricians and brain researchers have been telling us for years that real lifenot its digital approximation is essential to neuron development. Issues such as attention, cognitive delays, and “decreased ability to self-regulation” aka tantrums, are common problems parents seem to face. Research is pointing to these being related to over-stimulation by technology. Many call for urgent ‘media diets’ with kids.
Check with your pediatrician, or do some research. Don’t just Google “toddlers and smart screens” but observe a child’s social behaviors when there are no screens, vs soon after a child has spent an hour on one.
Below is a quick summary of some of the arguments.
Would you be ok to have your child interviewed to be admitted to Kindergarten?
I know of parents who have prepped their children for that face-to-face admission evaluation process widely used today by Charter schools. Hard to argue with this if we really want a revolution in education.
So, what if students are required to qualify to be admitted to school? Many schools resort to a lottery system, since there are a few hundred openings but a few thousand applications! But in addition to this, there’s the student interview. It’s a bit like applying for a job. One Pennsylvania charter school, Tacony Academy, has this requirement:
“each student must complete an Independent Research Presentation and present the results to a panel of teachers and administrators.
The Independent Research Presentation should be science related and either follows Scientific Method, the Question-Answer model, or the Problem-Solution model.”
This kind of motivation tells a school how to better customize a program to the student.
Speaking of which, Ken Robinson makes a great observation as to why education should not be served like fast food.
I had meant to publish this last week. The topic been on my mind as the print vs digital tension grows every day.
Every time I travel I do an unscientific check of the readers on the plane. I always find that newspapers and magazines beat digital platforms. Twice I’ve sat next to someone with a digital device – a Kindle and an iPad — and one of them showed me how the magazine reading experience with the ads, photos and all was awesome. The features, too!
This kerfuffle over GQ’s photo spread seems to suggest something I typically refuse to believe –magazine junkie that I am –that magazines will try anything to stay alive.
The photos that have angered many, are part of a story on Glee, the TV show. Why? They a dangerously seem to promote pedophilia. The Parent’s Television Council (PTC) has come out strongly against the issue.
Are magazines that desperate? Or is being borderline something, anything the only way to stay relevant? This is not the stuff of controversial magazine covers, a common technique since George Lois’ time, and before.
Maybe some magazines are engaging this kind of risky business as they find their footing in the myriad of digital platforms available. Two clues as to where this is headed:
New Niches: See this interview by Tom Wallace, the Conde Nast editorial director. He talks about using digital to reach audiences that magazines have been unable to reach. Maybe next year this time my in-flight survey will have different results…